[DR ANDY KNOX:]
Hello there. My name is Andy Knox. I'm a GP and also a Director of Population Health in the NHS.
And we are living in tough times together right now.
So I am going to give you seven quick tips about how to look after your mental health during these times, because it is tough and it is important that we take care of ourselves and each other.
A – Ask for help
If you are struggling with your mental health right now, if you have found yourself in a really low place and you can’t get out of it, if you are having any thoughts of ending your own life or hurting yourself or other people in some way, then ask for help.
There is no judgment from us in the NHS. Loads of us will struggle with our mental health at different times and more of us right now. Pick up the phone – your GP is there for you – we will wrap care around you, whether that’s through counselling services or different therapies or medication, whatever you need to help you get better or be able to stay level, we will be with you and walk through this time with you, so ask for help.
B – Breathe
When we’re anxious or stressed or worried, often our breathing rate increases and that can make things worse, so deliberately slowing your breathing down where you’re feeling anxious or worried, can really help.
The Royal Marines use a technique called ‘Box Breathing’ and we really recommend it. Breathe in slowly for four seconds, hold your breath in for four, then breathe out for four and hold your breath out for four. It changes the pattern of gases in your blood, which helps naturally calm you down.
C – Connect
We’re going to really need each other more through this time and yet we’re socially distanced, so we can’t. Pick up the phone, use Zoom or FaceTime or MS Teams or whatever you’re using and make sure you connect with people that you know and that you love.
But also, watch out for people who might be isolated or lonely on your street and connect with them. Conversation is so good at helping improve our mental health.
D – Develop a daily routine
It’s really important that we have things to do, things that we can achieve – just set out basic things and try and stick to them. Getting up at a certain time, having some breakfast and then getting on with some tasks that you set yourself – those things are really important at helping you focus and just keep on going.
E – Eat well and exercise
What we put into our body has a massive effect on our mental health. So, try and eat a rainbow diet of vegetables if you can, particularly focusing on your greens, think about things like chickpeas and lentils, also fish is also really helpful.
In terms of exercise, getting out for a twenty minute walk once a day will do you the world of good. If you’re unable to get out and about for various reasons, try and do some chair-based exercises or maybe do some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or some yoga or some Pilates in front of the TV. There’s loads of help available and Joe Wicks is re-starting his ‘PE with Joe’ at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Exercise is really good at bringing good endorphins in our bloodstream, which boost our mental health and help us to stay more positive and more focused.
F – Focus on today’s activities
Worrying too much about the future or the unknowns ahead of us isn’t going to help. Focus on today, focus on the tasks in front of you and be mindful doing them.
Enjoy the sensation of chopping up vegetables and the sensations of smelling things when you’re cooking, focus on a jigsaw in front of you or the task or the work that you’ve got to do that day; that will really help.
G – Be grateful
(Think of) three things to be grateful for every day before you shut your eyes and go to sleep. Write them down and keep a little journal ('today I am grateful for..'), or just say them in your head or tell your partner – or your animal or whatever! Being grateful will make a massive difference to your mental health.
We can get through this time. But we are going to have to dig a bit deeper than normal. So look after yourself and look after each other and let's take care of our mental health.